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UAVs and other robots have become increasingly affordable, capable, and available to both the U.S. military and adversaries alike. Enabling UAVs and similar assets to perform useful tasks under human supervision holds tremendous promise to extend the advantages U.S. soldiers have in field operations.

A persistent challenge in achieving this capability, however, has been scalability: enabling one operator to oversee multiple robotic platforms and have them perform highly autonomous behaviors. To help make effective swarm tactics a reality, DARPA created the Service Academies Swarm Challenge, a collaboration between the Agency and the three U.S. military Service academies – the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

An experiment at its heart, the research effort is designed to encourage students to develop innovative offensive and defensive tactics for swarms of small UAVs. As reported on, recently the effort started a three-day Competition in which more than forty Cadets will demonstrate the highly autonomous swarm tactics they have developed since work started in September.

“In less than eight months, you’ve shown yourselves to be dedicated and talented participants in a complex and timely research effort,” Timothy Chung, the DARPA program manager leading the Swarm Challenge, told the teams. “DARPA is proud to have you participating in this journey to explore offensive and defensive swarm tactics. Now is your chance to show each other, DARPA, and our guests your precedent-setting work toward an important goal: helping future U.S. forces maintain superiority in tomorrow’s technological and mission environments.”